Slurring Words

Increasingly philosophers (and linguists) are turning their attention to the surprisingly little explored lexical category of slurs. These are expressions that target groups on the basis of race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigrant status and sundry other demographics. In academic discussion, it’s easy to convince oneself (we confess on occasions we have) that particular uses of slurs are inoffensive. This discussion wouldn’t exist otherwise. As a safeguard against inurement, you should always ask how a targeted member, perhaps overhearing you, would react to your usage. You may find that what seems suitable is most definitely not. As many celebrities, including recently the radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, have learned, almost no speakers can opt to use a slur non-offensively.

Variability in Idiom Meanings

In this article, idioms are viewed as a type of set expressions that carry covert meanings and mark them by creating evident contextual inconsistencies when understood literary. We will argue that such parameters as stability of the form (often described as syntactic ‘frozenness’), non-compositionality and loss of meaning among idiom constituents cannot be taken as distinctive characteristics in idiom definition as these criteria may not be applied to specific idiom usages, referred to as ‘idiom transformations’ in this article. We will discuss some of them, namely ‘idiom constituent substitution’, ‘idiom constituent drop’, ‘collocation of two idioms’, ‘rewording of idiom meaning’ which represent regular usage of idioms in the mass media context and should be described and analysed alongside with classical (not transformed) idioms. In most cases transformations are facilitated by the literal meanings of the idiom constituents, therefore the role of the literal meaning of the idiom string should not be underestimated. We proceed from the assumption that any idiom is prone to transformation induced by a voluntary intention of the author.


Birds of a Feather … Wire Together: Creativity in Poetry and Natural Language Use

The paper raises questions concerning conventional meanings and non-conventional meanings in everyday language and poetical language alike and examines the nature of creativity and humor in various linguis-tic and social contexts. More concretely, the paper investigates our ability to use and to switch between conventional and non-conventional mean-ings at ease in a variety of contexts. The paper argues for the importance of experience in meaning creation and the different conceptualization patterns for situations as opposed to contexts that range from linguistic to pragmatic to mental contexts. The paper will attempt to investigate how faithful we are to our experiences on the one hand and how ven-turing we are in experimentation on the other for conceptualizations re-flected in the acts of meaning creation. As a corollary, a dichotomy will be adopted according to which linguistic expressions may be evaluated by subjects and assigned the values “understandable” versus “beyond understandable or inconceivable” as opposed to “meaningful” versus “meaningless”, brought into correlation with conceptual and perceptual knowledge, respectively. Further, the paper will explore the fundamen-tal differences between the basic types of meaning extension known as mapping, mental space building and context building and will argue for the complementary function of these mental processes in our interpreta-tion processes.

At the same time, the paper is an attempt to show that human cog-nition, and specifically the processing of contextualized verbal mate-rial, makes use of diverse types of information. In terms of discourse, we are confronted with the fact that contexts determining our inter-pretations are far from being homogeneous entities: contexts can be perceived as representations of situations (based on physical proper-ties of events), as linguistic structure (greatly determined by morpho-syntactic and lexical structures) and as conceptual structure (realized by mental schemes and images or cognitive models). The paper ar-gues that the multitude of contexts leads to a seamless interaction between epistemology and ontology. The above assumption will be tested on different types of discourse.

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